I am thrilled to introduce my new intern, Brittney Bash, who lives in New Richmond, Ohio and is a junior at Cincinnati Country Day School. As soon as I met her, I knew she would be a great fit for Good Things Going Around. She is someone who, like me, gets a lot of joy out of seeing others smile. She loves to be involved in her school and her community, and clearly learns about life from her experiences. And she is so enthusiastic about being a part of this blog. I am looking forward to getting to know her and her contributions.
Please learn more about Brittney from an introduction that she wrote about herself.
Brittney Bash, In Her Own Words
It really is a privilege to work with Lisa and I can’t wait to help her promote her blog, Good Things Going Around.
I grew up in a big family in a small town. I have two older brothers, a twin sister, a little sister, three nephews, and a niece. Throughout the last couple of years my home has also been the hotspot for British Soccer trainers looking for a place to stay. Their presence in the family has not only brought tons of giggles and memories but also opened many cultural gateways.
When I was young my aunt hosted many exchange students, and at a very young age I realized my passion for travel and interest in the diversity of different cultures. To date, I’ve visited England, Mexico, The Dominic Republic, Holland, Belgium, and France. I hope that my list will multiply throughout my life.
I enjoy playing sports and the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that comes along with the experience. I’ve done cheerleading, swimming, gymnastics, soccer, lacrosse, and track. Sports have given me many valuable skills such as the ability to work as a team, confidence, communication skills, and they have also helped enhanced my leadership capabilities. Outside of sports I also enjoy singing in my school’s A Capella Club, and writing for the school newspaper, The Scroll. I’ll admit, one of my weaknesses is my impulsiveness to try new things. In addition to singing and writing I’ve also helped out with the Filmmaking Club and Science Olympiad.
After a busy week I find time to enjoy hobbies such as journaling, meeting with my youth group, socializing, and spending time with my family. I love spreading my sense of humor and joy to others and I am an active member of The Council of Disruptive Thinkers where we discus current topics in Cincinnati in attempt to find ways to help others in need.
Although I may be young, I hope that my many experiences, my open mind, and my optimistic persona bring a fresh perspective and refreshing insight to Good Things Going Around readers.
Mahatma Gandhi once said…If we are to have real peace in this world, then we shall have to begin with the children.
And, at the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center a small silk flower is teaching young impressionable minds how to take responsibility for actions and solve conflict in positive ways.
The Peace Rose Ceremony
This is how the lesson goes. Whenever two children are having some sort of conflict, one will go to get the Rose (there is one in each classroom) and present it to the other. Each child says what happened, how he/she felt about what happened, and what he/she thinks should be done. Only the child holding the rose can speak. They declare ‘peace’ when they both feel the issue is resolved, and one brings the rose back to the vase…to continue on with their day.
Gosh, there are SO many reasons to love this approach that was originally developed by Karla Crescenta, a teacher at the Giving Tree who has extensive experience in mediation. What better, more empowering way to teach children than to give them the responsibility for coming up with their own solutions? This encourages them to talk freely and honestly about their emotions; and to speak with understanding and empathy rather than violence. Additionally, those kids who got great reinforcement from tattling to a teacher about a problem now see greater reinforcement from working things out on their own.
A+ to the staff of Kennedy Heights Montessori Center, and every other school, who teaches children about acceptance, peace and love.
Please watch this video
We have many reasons to be proud of living in Greater Cincinnati. Among us we have so many neighbors who care, destinations to visit, workplaces achieving great significance, educational institutions helping to raise future leaders, and organizations whose efforts are making a positive impact on lives and neighborhoods.
Yet, did you know, on average, there are an estimated 7,000 children in our region each year who know what it is like to be called ‘homeless’?
That is a really tough statistic to grasp.
Not only are these young, impressionable minds working through whatever intense circumstance they are facing with or without their family, necessities such as food, adequate clothing, supplies, transportation, mental preparedness to focus, and even positive adult role models are more often than not lacking too.
Good for them, and for our community, that a unique (and wonderful) nonprofit organization charged with helping these young people to grow. UpSpring (formerly Faces Without Places) is our region’s only nonprofit that exclusively serves homeless youth and children, providing them with consistency to achieve educational success in and out of the classroom. Each year UpSpring empowers about 3,000 children who are experiencing homelessness in Greater Cincinnati.
And, at its helm is a leader so driven by a passion to change the world – or at least the region – that his drive to stand up for what he believes in got him fired and landed him in national news. (Mike Moroski was terminated from his role as dean of student life at Purcell Marian high School for writing a post on his personal blog in support of same-sex marriage.) His deep rooted capacity to be an activist for those needing a voice found him embedded in the community of Over-the-Rhine as a rehabber, volunteer, friend and investor; and took him on a journey of running for Cincinnati City Council. Ultimately his path led him to UpSpring.
To meet Mike is to meet an immediate connection. On his website, he wrote, “Without relationships, nothing worthwhile or long-lasting can be accomplished.”
Mike also shared, “I’ve learned that picking yourself up off the ground when you’re down is the only way to succeed in this life. I have the relationships to be able to do this. Too many in our City do not. I have received numerous accolades for taking a stand in February and losing my job. My ability to take that stand is a blessing and one for which I am truly grateful. My ability to fight for those without a voice is a gift; a gift that I take very seriously. You see, those in poverty could not take the same stand that I took in February. They could not afford to lose their job & their health insurance. Thanks to my family (my safety net), I was able to take that stand – a stand I would have wanted to take even if I had not been in a position to do so, but one that, ultimately, I would not have been able to take. I’ve re-learned why I am running for Council this year – I am running so that those who have long felt their power stripped away from them can begin making moves to regain some of that power. When one is blessed with the ability to fight for what’s right, one should. I feel an overwhelming calling to do just that – and I have for many, many years.”
I have so much admiration and respect for Mike. He is a role model to me in so many ways. Please spend a few minutes to learn a little bit more about him.
Lisa: From where do you get your passion?
Mike: I think my passion definitely comes from a place of empathy. I grew up with every kind of opportunity I could ever want but by the time I was in high school, I realized how fortunate I was. My parents did not grow up with those same resources. Their families were poor, but they often didn’t realize it.
As I grew, what was instilled in me was a serious distaste for bullies. I’ll never forget fighting the kids who made fun of a friend who was different.
The way I see it, the systems in place today that promote the statistics are structural bullying or structural child abuse. These kids are not unequal but never given the opportunity to be equal. There is a difference.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who has influenced you and your life.
Mike: Mike Rogers, definitely. Mike had experienced homelessness and is a graduate of the Men’s Recovery Program of the Drop Inn Center. He has been like a brother to me. I was in my 20s when we met and I was not very confident. Mike is the first person to have told me not to apologize for my thoughts, and that they were good and valid. I always had a distaste for poverty and Mike introduced me to his community in Over-the-Rhine that has been pushed down. He worked with me on a rehab project and one day we began talking about the fact there was no place for people in his neighborhood to just hang out. Before I knew it, we were talking about opening this coffee shop. We called it Choices Café.
(Note: Choices Café was more than a coffee shop. It was a gathering place for people of different backgrounds with a shared outlook. Partnering with 3CDC, the Drop Inn Center, Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, and others, it embodied the motto, ‘We are one.’)
Lisa: What is the best advice you have received?
Mike: My father was always a salesman and he used to tell me that in everything I do, I am selling. I think about that in my work as an advocate and activist, and how education is a sales process. Many people have not had my life experiences. Without having had the opportunity to get to know a Mike Rogers or have homeless friends, they will not be able to relate the way I do and they may have already formed inaccurate associations. Every day I am selling the cause of homelessness, the reality of life for those who are impacted by it, and the need for support.
Another piece of advice that has stuck with me came from one of my professors. He told us, ‘your students will likely never remember anything you taught them but they will always remember who you were.’ That applies to most everything and everyone.
Lisa: You also talk about learning the difference between optimism and hope. Can you explain?
Mike: I learned that from someone who I never met, Vaclav Havel, who led the velvet revolution in the Czech Republic from his prison cell. In one of his letters, he wrote about how you need to clearly understand that difference if you are to fight injustice. OPTIMISM, he taught me, means you believe something will work. However, if you do your work filled with HOPE because you know deep down that it is the right thing to do no matter the outcome, only then is your work is sustainable. Reading that really changed how I do what I do.
Lisa: What is your hope when it comes to leading Upspring into the future?
Mike: I want to see the numbers of homelessness of young people go down. Organizationally speaking, I want Upspring to be able to provide more summer programs and serve more kids. This coming summer we will serve 210 students. I would also like to see what our role can be in early education. To expand, we will need more resources and more staff. It is going to take massive efforts and we cannot do this alone.
Lisa: What are some things on your own gratitude list?
Mike: Definitely my wife, Katie, all my friends and family, my pets and my music. All of them are what keep me level. This work is very intense, and it is not always easy turning it off. Hanging out with Katie and playing my guitar keeps me sane. I tell others they need to identify what that is for them because if you have the juice, your whole life can quickly be consumed. It is hard for me to NOT see the world as a mission. I am here to DO something.
Lisa: What other advice do you give people?
Mike: You’ve got to pursue your dreams, and also know that if you don’t change the world, that you have not failed. You have got to be patient. That is something I have to work on every day.
It is something I think a lot of us have to work on every day too. Yet, one more lesson I have come to learn from Mike.
Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” It is one of my favorite quotes, and it very much reminds me of a third grade student I recently met, who attends Hyde Park Elementary School.
In November, nine-year-old Caden Elrod became the youngest recipient of the Student Recycler of the Year Award from the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.
Let there be no mistake. Caden has found his calling, what makes him come alive and inspires him to lead by example.
Caden told me he has been recycling his whole life except for when he was a baby. But I think his spark was really ignited when he saw trash in the Ohio River and all along its shores. Then, in about the first grade he started looking into it and found information on a massive patch of literally billions of plastic pieces that have accumulated hundreds of miles into the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Island of Trash.
“It kills animals, and plants won’t be able to grow because stuff may get stuck in the plants,” he told me.
And that, Caden thinks, is just unacceptable. So, in his own way he set out to be a change maker.
Caden has been encouraging his school and his fellow students to recycle more. He made a cake that looked like a recycling truck for his Boy Scouts annual cake auction. He has shared photos of garbage along the Ohio River and elsewhere to get people’s attention. He and his dad drop off used electronics to Cohen Recycling. He will talk to anyone who will listen about the importance of doing their part. And he has applied to participate in the Hamilton County Recycling Policy Committee, although he won’t be old enough to join for a few more years.
At home, he has inspired his whole family to recycle (with the exception of his sister and that, he told me, is just because she is still a baby). They have recycling bins throughout their house.
“He will hold us accountable. He will always say to us, ‘I want you to do a little more’, Tonia Elrod, Caden’s mother said. “I am always conscious of it now. Even today I went to lunch and had a plastic cup but they couldn’t recycle there so I brought the cup home.”
Caden wants people to be aware that there are a lot of ways we can reuse products. Here are a few examples he pointed out.
- He has turned worn shoes into flower pots (a boot is easier to put a flower inside)
- You can make tunnels out of used plastic bottles by cutting off the top and bottom (he is not sure what you would use these for)
- You can make shelves from leftover wood
- He once made a giant thing out of cardboard that he rode on with his dad
- He once made a chair from a stick and a piece of wood
- He once made a game out of cardboard pieces
He has also learned there are some things you cannot recycle like foam things and packaging peanuts.
“I am trying to be an example for the whole world and my family,” he told me.
Here are a few more questions I asked him.
Lisa: How does it make you feel to recycle and encourage others to do the same?
Caden: It makes me feel good and like I am doing something that will help other people to live in a better place.
Lisa: What advice do you have for others about recycling?
Caden: Everyone should recycle as much as they can. There are like 33% of communities in the United States where you have to subscribe to recycle and that is not good. If you have contact with one of the leaders, you should tell them that you want to stop that so more people can recycle.
Lisa: When you grow up, what are some ways you can do more?
Caden: After school, I want to learn how to recycle electronics and foam.
The YWCA of Greater Cincinnati is offering a scholarship opportunity for African American female high school seniors who have overcome significant obstacles. Ten local, female, African American female students will be selected to receive the YWCA Mamie Earl Sells Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes young African-American women who have been successful despite having to overcome significant hardships. The YWCA not only offers
financial support to the students, but also an opportunity to meet and learn from some of Greater Cincinnati’s most successful, empowered career women, as the young women are invited to attend the 37th Annual YWCA Career Women of Achievement Luncheon on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
The YWCA Mamie Earl Sells Scholarship Fund was established in 1993 to provide financial assistance and support to an outstanding African-American female high school senior entering a post-secondary institution. There is 1 winner who receives $3,000, 2 Runners-Up receive $1000 each, 7 Honorable Mentions receive $250 each.
The application deadline is Thursday, January 21, 2016. Applications are available at www.ywcacincinnati.org/mes
Meet the 2015 Scholarship Winner
Lily-Michelle Arthur’s family’s hopes for a better life in Cincinnati crumbled soon after they arrived from their native Ghana. Her parents divorced, and the then Norwood High School teenager began handling household duties and caring for her siblings while her mother worked at a minimum-wage job. That experience was Lily-Michelle’s lesson in adaptation. She vowed to strive for high academic grades and success in whatever she did. Last year when she won the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati’s Mamie Earls Sells Scholarship presented by Kroger, she was ranked first in her class with a GPA of 3.9, wass Norwood High School’s senior class president, founder of the school’s Key Club and a member of the National Honor Society and Academic Team. She also volunteered at Good Samaritan and Christ Hospitals.
Lily-Michelle attends Emory University and is studying pre-med. She wants to be a pediatric neurologist and dreams of serving in humanitarian medical missions around the world.
“I want to leave behind a legacy that success is attainable despite personal or social challenges,” she said.